Originally published Sept. 8, 2008
Letters to the Editor - Dear editor,
Two of Gander's eight mayors have been women, Hazel Newhook and Sandra Kelly. Both women were great leaders, and because Mayor Newhook and Mayor Kelly were at the forefront I took little notice to the lack of female representation on our council, until recently when comments were made to me about the "old boys club" at Town Hall.
This prompted me to look into the stats and, by presenting them here; I hope to encourage more women to run for municipal office. Before Uncle John criticizes me, I am not saying to run just because you are a woman, but if you are a woman on the fence about where to put your volunteer efforts, listen to these stats and know that women are under-represented on Gander's Town Council.
Forty-four councillors have served us municipally. Only six of them have been female. Two of those six, Doreen House and Gloria Moss, served only partial terms due to byelections. Only one term since 1959 (1997-2001) saw two women in chambers at the same time, Bonnie Pritchett and Bettina Ford. Add that to the two mayors mentioned earlier, and that's it. That's all the female names since 1959, six of 44.
I hope by pointing out these stats more people feel like I did when I discovered them and then say, "Wow, that's not very representative of our population. More women need to run." In turn, I hope more people encourage capable women to run.
Council should be representative of those they serve, young adults, middle-aged adults, older adults, adults with children, adults without children, white collar, blue collar, male, female etc... This way we can ensure the passion for all the different lives lived in our community is felt in council chambers. I can't speak to the diversity of past councils in other ways but from the stats above, I can say for sure, females have always been under-represented on Gander's Town Council, and presently, not represented at all.
While helping a candidate in the last municipal election, I attended a lot of events with her, including the candidate's information session. During that time, the message was clear to potential and confirmed candidates, "don't do this if you don't have lots of time, it takes a lot of work."
This message was repeated so much it was like they were trying to discourage people from running. To potential female candidates who may be thinking about running in this fall's byelection or thinking about next year, don't be discouraged. You may be led to believe you don't have the time, but I ask you to examine your time closely and all that you do or have done for your community and family during your lives.
There are plenty of women out there who use their time wisely and have managed (or are presently managing) an equal, and in some cases, greater workload than Town Council demands. There are lots of great female leaders in Gander, but for some reason they are not choosing Town Council as an avenue in which to lead. I sure hope it's not because of the "old boys club" my friend mentioned when we were analyzing the root of an issue concerning town council.
Thank you to everyone who has ever served our community in any way whatsoever, but a special thank you to Hazel Newhook ('73-'77), Doreen House ('80-'81), Sandra Kelly ('85-'96), Gloria Moss ('96-'97), Bonnie Pritchett ('97-01) and Bettina Ford ('97-'05) for serving our community as town councillors.